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Wednesday
May182011

The Death of Osama Bin Laden

Like most Americans, I feel relief knowing that Osama Bin Laden is dead because I think that this will mean that the long term risk from terrorism is lessened, since one group of terrorists, al Queda, has lost its symbolic leader. But the fact that we ended up having to kill him in a military operation means to me that we have failed to try to communicate with him or his group or understand them and have chosen to meet violence with violence. Despite the relief we may have felt on hearing the news of his death, his death was not something to celebrate. The West has dismissed the beliefs of Islamic Fundamentalists as evil or crazy and not to be tolerated by a civilized society. We have not asked ourselves why some people believe as they do and have completely ignored Western actions such as placing military bases in their holy lands, backing cruel dictators who suppressed their own people but supported our policies, invading Muslim countries for misguided reasons, killing of countless Muslims either as enemy combatants or as "collateral damage" and the great impact of Western culture upon the value system and behavior of their young people, all of which might seem legitimate reasons to them to want to attack us. I deplore celebrating anyone's death and especially a deliberate, violent death and I regard the manner of such as killing as a failure of us to look for the common humanity in others and to seek a peaceful, civil way of solving our differences.

It is time that we Americans became more honest in our assessment of world events instead of seeing them only from our own perspective. Pakistan has been critical of the U.S. for violating its sovereignty in the intrusion into their air space and the attack on their soil that resulted in Bin Laden's death. American reaction has been to justify these actions because of the magnitude of the target and the role that ridding ourselves of al Queda's leader plays in our own self defense. These certainly are legitimate factors, but we also need to take seriously the complaints against our actions made by Pakistan. If the shoe were on the other foot and the Pakistani's identified an enemy of theirs in the United States, would we stand for them sending in an armed team to kill that enemy on our soil? Would we allow any other country in the world to violate American air space with the intent of mounting a military attack? Of course we wouldn't, but we justify doing those things because we are America and we were wronged by al Queda and Bin Laden - and we know that we can brush aside Pakistan's objections.

In Libya NATO is present to fulfill a United Nations resolution to protect civilians. Our news channels on television have reported on the attacks of Ghaddafi's military forces on civilian targets, while at the same time showing pictures of so-called civilian rebels with tanks, artillery and often in uniforms (ironically, NATO apparently believed its own rhetoric. They accidentally bombed rebel tanks because, as they said, "We didn't know the civilian rebels had tanks."). Both our news channels and our government have cheered the rebels on as they have  tried to mount counteroffensives to take Libyan cities and NATO air power has offered air support for such operations. In the guise of protecting civilians, NATO struck Ghaddafi's residence with a missile and killed his youngest son and three of his grandchildren. These actions may be necessary if we want the rebels to win the civil war and remove Ghaddafi from power, but let us not say that they are being done to protect civilians when they, in fact kill civilians, including children. Americans, including our President, are unanimous in saying that the Libyan leader must be removed, but shouldn't we remember that this is someone else's country and someone else's civil war and the United States cannot, in my mind, claim a moral superiority that allows us to willy-nilly meddle in other countries' affairs and remove their leaders because we don't like them. If we are going to continue to do this, and it appears as if we are, then let us at least be honest about what we are doing and not disguise our actions as moral when we really mean that we are just powerful enough to do what we want to do.



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